This just could be the most entertaining toy that nobody has ever heard of. Sphero looks like a slightly oversided billiard or pool table ball, but it’s in reality a very clever robot. This is actually the 2nd incarnation of Sphero, and this second version is a lot faster and smarter than v. 1.0.
The manufacturers call this robot ball the smartest toy on the block. It’s a gaming system that requires a smart phone to controll it. The app that runs Sphero can be used equally well on an Apple iOS or an Android device.
It comes in a box with a charging system, instruction guide and two little ramps.
The two co-founders who invented this innovative ball of fun, its inventors, Ian Bernstein and Adam Wilson, say that they grew up loving robotics, and they wanted to develop an educational toy that was simple, portable, and used a smartphone as its controlling system. Their company, Sphero was previously named Orbotix.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $129.99, but when we checked on Amazon.com, we saw that they were selling it for $108.14 and free shipping was available to qualified shoppers.
According to the company that created Sphero 2.0, this robotic ball is appropriate for children ages eight and older. Considering the fact that you need to be adept at using apps on a smart phone, we would think this is an accurate ballpark estimate. One reviewer said his grandmother loved playing with it.
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Thumbs Up Points
Although it is a lot of fun to play with, it is actually a teacher disguised as a ball. It was invented as a a creative play principle called SPRK, which stands for Schoold, Parents, Robots and Kids. What it all boils down to is that while children are engrossed in putting Sphero through its paces, at the same time they are learning computer programming, science, math, and other complicated concepts. This SPRK program is being used around the world in 20 different countries, by over 4,500 teachers, who are instructing 90,000 students in grades from elementary school all the way up to high school.
It will run for a full hour when fully charged.
Oh, yes, and it is also waterproof and virtually pet proof. It can swim, and if Rover retrieves it, Sphero will remain safe. Hopefully it’s too big to be swallowed.
Thumbs Down Points
In looking through the consumer reviews, we spotted two areas that could be problematic. The first one is that Sphero does not seem to be very happy rolling on some textures of carpeting. Some carpets cause it to slow down and made it hard to restart from.
Another reported issue was loss of connectivity. One user said its iPhone connection disappeared and could not be restarted.
It takes quite a long time to go from fully discharged to fully charged, three hours.
What Consumers Are Saying
Here are some review excerpts from customers who purchased the product.
As an engineer, I can’t help but be enamored by the technology and design of this wonderful little orb. Sphero is amazing to watch as it maneuvers on your command and the designers have put some features in (a tail, little tricks) that make the toy a bit more endearing, almost like a pet.
My 16 year old son has lost interest. An my 8 year old boys lost interest after just a few tries. So I can’t recommend it.
There are some clever apps to let you drive Sphero around the house or over zombies. Or you can use Sphero as a controller to shoot down aliens and ingest energy pods.
Value In A Nutshell
What makes Sphero different from other robot toys and RC vehicles is the quality of its technology. It is totally re-programmable and it comes ready programmed with a large variety of different games.
You can get Sphero at a reduced price online at Amazon.com, as well as other brick and mortar and Internet retailers.
And In Conclusion…
Folks who experience Sphero for the first time are blown away by the fact that there is so much packed into one high-impact polycarbonate sphere. Lurking below the surface is a guidance system, gyroscope and acelerometer. There is also a lighting system to make it glow in a range of different colors.
This will appeal to people who appreciate the latest technology and love playing games with their computer and smartphone. Even at the full list price of $130, this high-tech genius toy is appealing, but if you can get it on Amazon.com for as low as $109 with free shipping, we think this decision is a no-brainer.